Tuesday, January 8, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Congress MPs seek one policy
Ticket to relatives
Prashant Sood
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 7
The tussle among the Punjab Congress leaders over issuing of party ticket to the confidants and relatives of party MPs continued today with five MPs meeting AICC treasurer Motilal Vora in the evening and demanding a “uniform policy” by the high command on the issue. Some of the MPs had earlier met Congress President Sonia Gandhi individually.

Saying that a different yardstick could not be applied in the case of PCC chief Amarinder Singh and in support of their case, the MPs also raised the issue of the PCC chief’s “non-availability” to workers camping in Delhi and a review of the seat-sharing agreement with the CPI.

However, in a tactical move aimed at silencing the criticism of party MPs, Raja Malvinder Singh, brother of PCC chief Amarinder Singh, has withdrawn his candidature for the party ticket from Samana. He wrote a letter to the Congress President expressing his wish to withdraw his application.

In a similar move, Mr Fatehjang Singh Bajwa, brother of Mr Pratap Singh Bajwa, a former minister, has withdrawn his candidature from Srihargobindpur. Mr Pratap Singh Bajwa is a candidate from Batala.

Capt Amarinder Singh has been opposing issuing of party ticket to relatives of senior Congress leaders and has made his position clear to the Congress high command.

However, unwilling to withdraw their claims, the MPs have told the AICC leaders that Mr Amarinder Singh was also seeking the ticket from a seat falling in the parliamentary constituency represented by his wife. “Our claims are not different,” one of the MPs said.

Sources said while Mr Balbir Singh, MP from Jalandhar, was seeking the party ticket for his wife from Jalandhar Cantt, Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo, MP from Ropar, wanted his relative to contest from Khanna. Mr Charanjit Singh Channi’s relative was a contender from a constituency in Hoshiarpur while Mr Gurcharan Singh Galib, MP from Ludhiana, wanted his son to contest from Jagraon. Mr Ripjeet Singh Brar, brother of Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar, was in the race from Muktsar, while the husband of Ms Santosh Chaudhary, MP from Phillaur, had applied from Sham Churasi.

AICC sources said the high command was not favourably inclined towards the demand of party MPs as it felt that one of party’s main poll planks against Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal (of perpetuating family rule) would be weakened. The high command, they said, could relax norms where the relative of an MP was a Congress worker of long standing.

Responding to the criticism about the ticket being given to Mr Amarinder Singh from a seat falling in his wife’s parliamentary constituency, AICC leaders said the PCC chief had left the seat for his wife. “In any case, as PCC chief, he can exercise his choice,” an AICC leader said.

Unwilling to swallow this logic, the MPs are pressing their cases. But they said the final decision taken by the Congress President on the issue would be acceptable to them.

The AICC treasurer, Mr Vora, indicated that a decision on the issues raised by the MPs would be taken tomorrow. He said the party could also talk to the CPI to explore the possibility of swapping some of the seats announced earlier. The discussion on the pending seats was also likely to conclude tomorrow.



Congress list further delayed
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 7
The list of Congress candidates for the Punjab Assembly elections has been further delayed by a few more days. The list was expected to be released this evening.

A close confidant of Capt Amarinder Singh, president of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, told The Tribune that the list would now be released either tomorrow or the day after.

Amidst reports that the list would be reviewed by the party high command, most of the aspirants for the party ticket today rushed to Delhi for lobbying. The pro-Capt Amarinder Singh group said there would be no review of the list and the names approved by the Central Election Committee headed by Mrs Sonia Gandhi in the past two days would ultimately make it the final list to be announced by the party’s authorised spokesman.

But on the other side, the anti- Capt Amarinder Singh group is fully confident about the review of the list. That group said the party high command had assured it that the agreement reached with the CPI would be re-examined besides reviewing the names of the candidates objected to by certain Congress MPs and other senior leaders. The allotment of the party ticket to certain new entrants to the Congress has been opposed by some senior leaders.

Most of the leaders of the Congress will come back to Punjab from Delhi tonight as they are to attend the bhog ceremony of the father-in-law of Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, former Chief Minister, at Changaliwala village in Sangrur district. Sources said that only on the return of Mrs Bhattal and other senior leaders to Delhi after the bhog ceremony, would the Congress high command finalise the list of candidates.

There will be no further meeting of the Election Committee of the party. Now Mrs Sonia Gandhi will prepare the final list in consultation with the treasurer, Mr Moti Lal Vora, who is also in charge of party affairs in Punjab, Capt Amarinder Singh, and certain other senior leaders.

Senior leaders said the party high command today remained busy in a damage-control exercise. It contacted several senior leaders from Punjab to tell them not to make the allotment of the party ticket an issue. The party high command had given an assurance that it would try to do justice to all factions in the PPCC.

The pro-Capt Amarinder Singh group said there was no truth in reports that Mr Sharad Pawar’s emissaries had contacted the Congressmen who felt slighted because of the non-allotment of the party tickets to them. However, the anti-Capt Amarinder Singh group said Mr Pawar’s emissaries were keeping a close watch on the situation because of discontent in a section of Punjab Congressmen and wooing them to form a breakaway party.

Meanwhile, Mr Hans Raj Sharma, a former PPCC President, said neither he nor any of his close relations was in the race for the party ticket. He said he would support the decisions taken by the party high command.


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